It seems a lifetime ago that Atletico Madrid were firing blanks against Leganes and Antoine Griezmann was preparing for a relegation battle.
Back then, it did look like Atletico were a little lost. They could not pack enough of a punch to enter the heavyweight division but had graduated from the grade below.
Atletico were set for a season in purgatory; give me heaven or hell any day but not purgatory. It wouldn’t be long before they gave us a signal as to which way they were headed though.
Atletico hit Celta Vigo for four - the same Celta Vigo side that beat Barcelona on Sunday night - and wiped the floor with Sporting Gijon at the Vicente Calderon in the next two weeks. A couple of middling to bad performances and results by Barcelona and Real Madrid and Atletico find themselves at the summit of La Liga and their Champions League group.
When broken down, Atletico have one of the best squads in Europe and when you look at positional groups, los Rojiblancos have a top three defense, world class midfield, excellent forward line and the kind of strength in depth that ensures you don’t drop points like Atletico have been wont to do in the last two seasons.
Oh, Diego Simeone’s not a bad coach either.
Antoine Griezmann is the best attacker in Europe at the minute and leads the race for the Pichichi with six goals after seven games - he has only played in six.
Jan Oblak looks unbeatable in goals having only conceded two in seven - two in nine if you add in the Champions League.
Atletico’s full backs look as good as they ever have and Kevin Gameiro and Fernando Torres continue to impress when given chances. They are also being used efficiently and effectively by Diego Simeone, who can’t seem to get a substitution wrong.
Koke has reached another level and is quickly turning into one of the important and influential midfielders in the world. Mario Suarez recently said that the 24-year-old is a more complete player than Xavi, if you want to get a flavour of how good he has been this season.
One thing that Atletico often struggle with when it comes to La Liga is goal difference. They have to be ahead of the big two due to the number of goals they score as beating them on goal difference is a non-runner. Given Atletico’s excellent defensive record - two goals conceded in seven, two in nine if you include the Champions League, just in case you missed it earlier - they have the same goal difference as Barcelona, who have scored 22 goals in seven games.
Their competitors? Man City drew with what we all decided was a poor Brendan Rodgers’ trained Glasgow Celtic side and lost to Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend with Pep Guardiola admitting the London side were simply better over the course of 90 minutes.
Bayern? There is no room for ambiguity here, really. They visited Madrid last Wednesday and were given a clinic in balanced football that including pressing, tactical astuteness, defensive stability and counter-attacking excellence.
Atletico Madrid are simply the best team in Europe at present and if Messi’s injuries persist and Zinedine Zidane’s side continue to stagnate, they have to be considered favourite to win both La Liga and the Champions League.
It looks like Atletico’s last season at the Vicente Calderon could be the most successful one in their history.